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Mysterious Ba Be Lake lies 270 kilometres north of Hanoi, as rich in legend as it is in biodiversity. The lake is a small pocket of tropical paradise, providing a safe haven for a plethora of creatures, including some endangered species. It is also home to communities of people from Vietnam’s ethnic minorities, who still live in rural simplicity along its shores. This is a unique chance to see a remote part of the country and be a guest of the local people.
Ba Be Lake is the largest natural lake in Vietnam. It is situated in the north of the country, at the centre of a national park, which was created to protect the lake area from development. The eight-kilometre-long stretch of water is surrounded by waterfalls, caves and incredible rock formations; limestone crags draped with tropical forest and climbing bamboo descend steeply to the edges of crystal clear water. The lake is home to over a hundred different species of fish. The forest guards at least fifty animal species including the pangolin, the loris and the black gibbon, as well over 400 species of plants. Villages around the lake are home to the White Hmong, Tay and Coin Dao people, whose way of life has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Take a boat ride out onto the placid waters of the lake and take in the stunning scenery. Venture into the caves and marvel at the alien limestone shapes created by the seasonal fluctutions in the level of the lake waters. One cave shelters a colony of up to ten thousand bats. You’ll stay at the traditional Tay village of Pac Ngoi, with its stilt houses, where life is simple and modest. In these beautiful, fertile surroundings the local people sustain themselves through fishing and rice farming.
If you’re a nature lover, you’d be hard-pressed to do better. This place is alive in a way that few places can be; the fertile surroundings produce a riotous explosion of diversity; everything is green and lush, and the hillsides resound with the calls of birds and mammals hidden in the forest. The homestays are far from being five-star accommodation, but this is precisely their charm: for two nights you get to experience what it’s like to live here, amid towering, vine-clad hills, in houses built from the surrounding forest, eating food grown and cooked by the hands of your hosts, and enjoying what must be one of the loveliest lakeside settings anywhere in the world.
This was a great trip, although you do need to be prepared for a lot of travel, however that was certainly part of the fun, looking out for motorbikes loaded with livestock, families, kitchen appliances. The landscape was breathtaking, and our guide had lots of information to help us understand our surroundings. The homestay was clean and comfortable, the family fed us extremely well, and were very friendly.
Karen reviewing Ba Be Lake and Homestay in Vietnam
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